Kushner Arrives to Try for Israeli-Palestinian Breakthrough

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (C) at a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R). Also seen special envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) and Ambassador David Friedman. (Chaim Zach/GPO)

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, arrived in the region on Wednesday for a daylong visit aimed at restarting long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kushner met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and was to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

President Trump has tasked Kushner with the ambitious goal of laying the groundwork for what he calls the “ultimate deal.” Deep divisions remain, however, clouding the chances of a significant breakthrough.

After two decades of failed U.S.-led peace efforts, Palestinian statehood seems distant. Envoy Jason Greenblatt has already made several visits.

Even before his meetings, Kushner faced a new crisis.

On the eve of his arrival, Israel broke ground on a new settlement for residents of the Amona outpost that was dismantled in February under orders from the Supreme Court.

Netanyahu had vowed to compensate the residents of Amona with a new settlement, built on a nearby site in northern Shomron.

“The people of Amona really appreciate his efforts and the efforts from his office in fulfilling this commitment that started to come alive to create this new community,” said Avichai Boaron, a spokesman for the settlers.

The move has infuriated the Palestinians, who say all settlements are illegal obstacles to peace.

“This is the way Netanyahu is meeting Trump’s envoys,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian official. “The real question here is will the administration of Trump tell Israel that it is enough and they have to stop immediately all settlement activities, or they will accept this Israeli provocation?”

Kushner did not speak to reporters ahead of his talks Wednesday, and Israeli security agents blocked AP cameramen from filming the arrival of his convoy. In one case, a cameraman was ordered to leave a sidewalk outside the government compound that houses Netanyahu’s office, and in another case, a cameraman was ordered to delete his memory card of all images of the prime minister’s office.

Once on the ground, Kushner immediately paid a condolence visit to the family of Hadas Malka, Hy”d, a young female Israeli police officer who was killed by Palestinian terrorists over the weekend near Yerushalayim’s Old City. Kushner said President Trump asked him to personally convey the condolences of the American people.